A Week's Worth

Look who's standing pat: Shortly after Delta cut its most expensive fares and eliminated Saturday stay-over rules, other major airlines slashed fares too. Experts say the bid to boost traffic is risky because carriers will have to cut costs even more, especially Delta and United, which are near bankruptcy. But two cut-rate carriers, Southwest and AirTran, have stronger balance sheets, so they haven't had to react.

January signal? With the first five trading days of 2005 completed, some analysts see clues for the rest of the year. Since 1950, the market has risen over the first five days of January 34 times; 29 of those years led to gains for the entire year. In 10 of the 20 years when the market declined, stocks failed to rebound by year's end. This year, the major indexes fell over the first five days. So the theory suggests 2005 has only an even chance of being an up year.

Greenback is back: The dollar rose to a six-week high against the euro after news that the US added 157,000 jobs last month and 2.2 million for the year. That's the best annual employment gain in five years. While the December figures were mildly disappointing, economic news from Germany and Switzerland was worse.

Easier conversion: If you earn $100,000 or more each year and are already taking money out of an individual retirement account, the Internal Revenue Service has eased its rules. Mandatory IRA withdrawals no longer are part of adjusted gross income. So more people will be able to convert their IRAs to more flexible Roth IRAs without bumping into the $100,000 income limit.

How to keep workers: Nearly two-thirds of workers prefer extra money in their retirement accounts rather than a raise or bonus. Other loyalty-building tips taken from a Randstad North America survey: Seven in 10 say a good insurance/health- benefits package is the prime consideration when weighing whether to stay; 86 percent say they'd prefer a boss who focuses on ethics over profitability.

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